Call for earlier start to season

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The FA Carling Premiership and Nationwide Football League want the 1997/98 season to start early to ease the impact that the heavy international commitments in the build-up to the World Cup finals in France will have on domestic fixtures.

The Football League is hoping to advance the launch of its programme a week to 9 August, while it is understood the Premiership would welcome the start of its season being moved forward a fortnight to 2 August.

The two parties are discussing the matter with the Football Association, partly in an effort to avoid a repeat of the increasing number of postponements brought about this season by the influx of overseas players required for international duty. The change would also help the preparations of England's coach, Glenn Hoddle.

Whether or not Paul Gascoinge will be involved in those come the 1998 finals remains to be seen. Hoddle is likely to have the final say on whether the troubled Rangers midfielder will be part of the squad for the nedxt qualifier, in Georgia on 9 November.

Hoddle will meet the FA chairman, Keith Wiseman, today to discuss Gascoigne's England future and the public response to allegations that he had beaten his wife, Sheryl. Last night, in a poll conducted by Talk Radio, 76 per cent of callers were against Hoddle selecting Gascoigne.

Everton yesterday completed the signing of another England squad member, Nick Barmby, for pounds 5.75m. "I bought Nick as we didn't have the type of player who can play the role Eric Cantona does for Manchester United," said the Everton manager, Joe Royle, who broke Everton's previous record payout of pounds 5m for Andrei Kanchelskis last year with the signing.

"We've power and height with the likes of Ferguson, the pace of Kanchelskis and a lot of mobility from other forwards at the club. But Nick will give us something else. He can create goals, score them and he's also a team player."

The leader of Hove council, Ivor Caplin, has renewed his appeal for Brighton's chairman, Bill Archer, to leave the Third Division's bottom club.

"The club is in a black hole and the only way forward is for Mr Archer to speak to Dick Knight, the head of the consortium," Caplin said. "They offer the way ahead as they have the resources and fresh ideas required."

Ipswich Town made a record loss of pounds 1,930,702 for the financial year ending 31 May, which covers the period in which they were relegated from the Premiership. Their chairman, David Sheepshanks, said the loss was directly attributable to the reduction in income brought about by their drop in status.